A committed non-ice queen turn from the great Charlotte Rampling saves this London-set murder mystery from generic blandness.
This noir-tinged debut feature by Barnaby Southcombe, based on a novel by Elsa Lewin, boasts a plethora of enticing base elements: the brutalist, protruding façades of London's Barbican centre, where much of the action in the film takes place; smokey torch songs care of Sheffield's premiere neo-crooner Richard Hawley; a supporting cast which includes such Brit stalwarts as Eddie Marsan and Ralph Brown; and, most interesting of all, the great Charlotte Rampling in a lead role.
It's a shame, then, that the resultant film adds up to little more than the sort of robust if disposable murder mystery you might catch on TV of a Sunday evening. It's not a failure, as such, but just a mite unambitious and generic to latch itself to your mind for the long haul.
Rampling – in a rare non-ice queen outing – plays Anna, a needy and strangely forgetful middle-aged woman who spends her evenings cruising around awkward singles nights and looking for romantic action. Having knocked back some gratis Champagne and shared a few saucy bon mots with Ralph Brown (as you do), Anna wakes up discombobulated and with a fractured risk. Oh, and Ralph Brown has had his head smashed to a bloody pulp by an astutely swung statue.
Enter Gabriel Byrne's Detective Reid, who swiftly falls for Anna's charms and then wants to find out why she operates from behind a thick emotional shield and, more importantly, why she was loitering around the scene of the crime on the night of the murder.
There's mild intrigue from the off, and Southcombe calibrates the performances in a way which plays off the hidden depths and the dark past secrets. But as the film rolls on, it all becomes a little trite and predictable, with melodramatic histrionics piled on in the final reel in a bungled attempt to make a late game save. The amnesia motif is a little hoary, and it's not employed in a particularly innovative manner.
As the story is told from Anna's perspective, her psychological malady is merely used as an excuse to drip feed the plot reveals. But props to Rampling for giving it her all, and its her stoic attempts to take this material seriously which prevents it from ultimate generic blandness.
Charlotte Rampling in a lead role is always worth a look.
It's a solid film, but it just sticks to the rules too rigidly.
With all that talent involved, this really should've been great.